A piece of wreckage from 9/11 believed to be one of the commercial jets that brought down the World Trade Center was uncovered near Ground Zero. Police have now turned the area into a crime scene. If the pieces contain human DNA, scores of victims who have never been positively identified may bring closure to many families. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
A 5-foot-long chunk of airplane debris found near the World Trade Center site is believed to be a piece of landing gear from one of the planes that hit the towers more than 11 years ago, NBC 4 New York first reported.
Police confirmed Friday that the part was found wedged between two buildings in a very narrow alley only about 18 inches wide between the rear of 50 Murray St. and back of 51 Park Place, the site where a mosque and community center has been proposed three blocks from ground zero.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly visited the alley Friday evening and viewed the debris from about 30 feet away.
"It brings back terrible memories to anyone who's here, and obviously I think the families could very well be impacted by this finding," he said.
Kelly described the piece as being about 5 feet by 4 feet and around 17 inches high, lying in a "very, very narrow, confined area."
"It's difficult to get in there and see," he said.
The narrow alley in lower Manhattan where debris that might be pieces of landing gear from one of the commercial airliners destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001 was found.
He said there was rope intertwined in part of the gear, and there were no marks on the buildings indicating the piece hit the walls on the way down.
"It would have had to fall down at a certain angle," said Kelly.
Asked whether he was surprised to see such a large plane part anchored in such a tight area, Kelly said: "If you see how confined this space is, and you realize the chaos that existed down here on this street, it's not surprising. It's very, very confined. No cleanup went on in this 18-inch space between these two buildings."
The NYPD said the landing gear was found after surveyors hired by the property owner inspecting the rear of 51 Park Place called police on Wednesday.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said the NYPD has secured the location "as it would a crime scene," and investigators are photographing the scene and restricting access until the medical examiner completes a health and safety evaluation.
Officials said the soil below the piece of debris could also be searched for remains.
Police officials say the part could be difficult to remove, and may require demolition work that would destroy the two surrounding buildings. Officials are expected to be back at the scene on Monday to see if it can be removed.
"It really is a historical artifact," Kelly said.
On Sept. 11, American Airlines flight 11 hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m., and United flight 175 hit the south tower at 9:03 a.m.
The rubble from the 9/11 attack was cleared from the 16-acre site by the spring of 2002. Other debris, including human remains, has been found scattered outside the site, including on a rooftop and in a manhole, in years since.
A Boeing representative declined comment.
NBC New York
The name Boeing and a serial number is visible on a piece of the debris.
This story was originally published on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:43 PM EDT